California Contractor Indicted for Manslaughter in Trench-Collapse Death

Work continued for days despite two stop-work notices issued by a Milpitas building inspector because of elevated trench-collapse conditions

Fremont, Calif.,-based contractor, U.S. Sino Investment, its owner and a project manager were indicted Monday on involuntary manslaughter charges in the cave-in death of a construction worker at a Milpitas building site.

Raul Zapata Mercado, 38, was killed January 28, 2012, after a 12-ft. wall of dirt collapsed on top of him.

Three days before the trench collapse, a Milpitas building inspector had issued a "stop work" notice to the project manager at the site because several days of torrential rain raised the risk of cave-ins. The project had no permit for excavation deeper than 5 ft.

Work continued at the site despite the stop-work notice, and a second stop-work order was issued.

"This case is about what happens when construction companies cut corners on safety," Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a news release. "Workplace safety is not an option. What happened to Raul Zapata Mercado was not an accident, it was a crime."

(more on contractor U.S. Sino manslaughter indictment . . . )